How is Uppsala’s ‘personal lockdown’ different from the rest of Sweden?

How is Uppsala's 'personal lockdown' different from the rest of Sweden?
Uppsala's 'personal lockdown' is not a lockdown by most countries' standards. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
Uppsala has urged residents to enter a 'personal lockdown', and 'assume everyone you meet has Covid-19', stronger messaging than previously seen in Sweden. But in effect, the same recommendations apply to everyone in the country.

Uppsala is one of 13 out of Sweden’s 21 regions to have brought in stricter coronavirus measures this spring as the coronavirus continues to spread and more patients are hospitalised with the virus.

On Thursday, the region’s infectious disease doctor urged all Uppsala residents to “enter a personal lockdown” and “consider all human contacts as a potential risk [of Covid-19 infection].” The same messaging has appeared on posters and online adverts.

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While this is a noticeably sharper tone, the actual recommendations in place in Uppsala remain the same, namely:

  • If you get symptoms, stay at home and get tested
  • Keep at least two metres’ distance from other people, both indoors and outdoors
  • Don’t spend time in busy indoor environments
  • Work from home if you can
  • If you have to use public transport, use a face mask
  • Don’t meet anyone you don’t live with

The first four points overlap with the national recommendations that have applied to everyone, everywhere in Sweden for months, but the last two vary slightly.

Uppsala is one of 13 regions which ask residents to wear a face mask at all times on public transport, and usually also in other indoor environments such as at shops, hairdressers or during visits to healthcare. In Sweden’s other eight regions, the basic national recommendation to wear masks on public transport applies during weekday rush hour (7-9am and 4-6pm) only, although the recommendation to avoid public transport if possible applies everywhere.

When it comes to socialising, everyone in Sweden has been urged since last autumn to limit close contacts (more than 15 minutes within two metres’ distance) to a small circle. No exact number of households or people has been given, but the advice from public health authorities has been to limit this small circle to the people you live with, or one or two friends if you live alone, with the possibility to include a small number of additional people depending on your personal situation — for example, a family of five might include two grandparents in their circle, or two couples might form a circle. The national advice is also to avoid being part of multiple ‘circles’. 

Although Uppsala’s wording sounds stricter due to the emphasis on people you live with, it is essentially the same recommendation that applies nationally. Several other regions have reiterated the importance of meeting only the people you live with or who are included in your closest circle.

The region has also not asked symptom-free people to avoid indoor dining for example, although restaurants and cafes are subject to national rules including a four-person limit per table and one-metre distance between groups.

The Local on Thursday asked state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell his opinion on the “personal lockdown” message.

“Basically, Uppsala’s saying what we all are saying. You need to cut down on your personal contacts as much as possible, especially people that you don’t normally meet,” he said.

“Since they have such a difficult situation they need to enforce it even more and I think that’s a good thing to do because what we are aiming for is to cut down on the personal contacts we have because that’s the way the virus is spread. We’ll see how useful [the messaging] is.”

Although Tegnell referred to ‘enforcement’, the measures outlined above — wearing face masks, limiting personal contacts, avoiding public transport and working from home — are not legally enforced in Sweden, though they have a basis in law through the Communicable Diseases Act.

The agency has warned of a drop in compliance with national measures in recent weeks, which has caused the virus to spread fast.

When The Local asked Tegnell about this in late March, he said the two most concerning changes were more people going into the workplace in person, and people expanding their social contacts by meeting people outside their close circle.

Sweden does not only rely on these recommendations, but has also passed laws aimed at curbing the spread of infection, including imposing limits on visitor numbers to shops, gyms and museums and restricting opening hours for bars and restaurants. Reports from Swedish regions have shown that these are not always complied with either, and that staff responsible for enforcing the rules face difficulties including having to keep up with changing regulations and anger from customers.


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